PRE On Moneyball, Attracting Top Tier Talent, Spending $12,000 On Desks And More

PRE On Moneyball, Attracting Top Tier Talent, Spending $12,000 On Desks And More

Written by 

Sascha Heinisch


29th Dec 2020 15:31

Aaron "PRE" Heckman has moved quickly through the ranks in the Overwatch League. Initially starting out as an analyst for the New York Excelsior, he moved to the Justice to become an assistant coach. Only shortly after in the mid-season of 2019, he assumed the position of an Assistant General Manager and eventually received the full title of GM at the end of May in 2020 going through four different job descriptions in just two years. However, what PRE actually did for those teams was consistent throughout his esports career. He’s a facilitator, trying to solve problems before they become points of friction. 

In this long-form interview with GGRecon he outlines the process he had to go through to become better at what he does and which learnings he took from being part of one of the worst-performing Overwatch League franchises in the League during season 2 and 3, all while wrapping his ideas in basketball references and keeping a sense of humour about it. 

Other than his personal growth, the interview covered a wide range of topics, from building a working relationship with Hyeong-seok "WizardHyeong" Kim, Moneyball, Justice’s constant changes in team staff and players, moving to the groove of the chaotic nature of succeeding in Overwatch, what it takes to attract star players like Tae-sung "Mag" Kim and Gui-un "Decay" Jang, and much more. 

We also get that committing to a two-hour interview is hard, so getting the information condensed in bite-sized “too long; didn’t watch” chunks is much more palatable. If you are unsure if it’s worth the time investment or if you are fine just getting the gist of it, we have compiled a list of bullet points of the topics covered for your convenience! 

Too long; didn't watch

PRE’s personal way into Overwatch League

  • PRE says he worked for Palantir, a big data software company working with the government, managing a team of engineers. He says there have been many similarities between his past job and management trying to solve issues to keep young prodigies productive
  • PRE went to Cornell University and majored in economics
  • He played TF2, crediting watching Muselk bringing him to Overwatch
  • 3300 is the rating he sits at currently
  • PRE says he got the job with NYXL because he sold Wizardhyeong the idea of managing the data analysts instead of becoming one himself

NYXL and Moneyball

  • PRE says that he thinks that statistical analysis is only effective in specific and more narrow categories than in traditional sports
  • Talks about how they used statistics mostly to improve players, not as much to scout
  • PRE thinks that NYXL would’ve been still very good without their approach, but it helped to stay ahead
  • A lot of statistical effort went to Sung-hyeon "JJoNak" Bang specifically in Transcendence usage

Washington Justice during season 2 and 3

  • PRE says that WizardHyeong improved a lot during season 2, especially in the soft skills of leadership
  • He thinks the reason why Justice didn’t succeed in GOATs nor in season 3 was because the team had weak synergy and not being on the same page inside and outside the game
  • People weren’t getting along in both season 2 and 3
  • PRE says he can’t share specifics on Lukas "LullSiSH" Wiklund’s visa issues but says that the acquisition process is very arbitrary but that LullSiSH showed endless patience
  • Thinks VALORANT was the logical conclusion for Corey because it fit his skillset so well
  • Hyeon-Woo "JJANU" Choi and Chung-hee "Stitch" Lee joining was a turning point for their reputation. PRE was also confident that if they got them into the door, the players wouldn’t want to leave. They got them so quickly that other teams were confused about how that worked
  • Justice had been interested in Decay for a while before he was signed initially
  • PRE denies having to pay a lot to get Decay to sign for the rest of season 3, saying that his pay in season 3 for that duration was not even in the top 3 of annualised income for the Justice
  • Decay was on board “very very fast”, wanted a Korean speaking team

Season 4 outlook

  • PRE thinks seven-man rosters are going to have a really hard time in season 4
  • Justice will favour building a team that is happy to play together and flexible enough, rather than gunning for strength in specific metas
  • PRE thinks that the value of a high salary has decreased for players, with most looking for different factors like playing with good teammates, being projected to win a lot, and having an environment without organisational hiccups while in season 2, players cared way more about money
  • Says that their selling point is a nice, understanding team culture and attentive coaches rather than offering the best salary. He also shares that Justice was likely not the team offering the highest salary for most of their players
  • Justice realised the wanted Mag early and researched heavily into what he was looking for in a team. PRE also had a long conversation with most players they recruited asking what they wanted from the org. He thinks that their ability to listen to those wishes helped them a lot
  • The Justice contracted the same company who builds the desk at the Blizzard arena and spent $20,000 on custom-fabricated aluminium desks to allow players to actualise their potential
  • PRE says that a major selling point for many players was that they want to play with Decay
  • While Mag was eligible to join the Overwatch League late into season 3, PRE guesses that he likely just wanted to play with RunAway for another season instead
  • PRE wants to really avoid roster turnover in season 4
  • According to PRE, there are trade restrictions in contracts, allowing players to have some say in the destination of the team they end up in, says these wishes are always granted at the Justice 
  • Getting rid of JJANU was a painful decision but the Justice think that a player like Jun-ho "Fury" Kim has shown more flexibility, making him the better fit
  • PRE thinks that Won-sik "Closer" Jung is another player that was held back by their environment
  • According to PRE, a lot of owners or higher-ups in the League care about the community’s reaction to a signing  
  • Justice looked at both Dong-jun "Rascal" Kim and Hae-seong "Libero" Kim. PRE says that the Justice’s trails encompassed almost all of the top tier free agents. They are currently waiting to see where demand will arise for them.
  • PRE speculates that further signings will happen around the League as we get closer to the season start
  • The Justice is focused on building their local fanbase, which is why they decided against going to Korea for season 4

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Image via Blizzard Entertainment

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